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Sep 18 / King Kaufman

Sportswriter Jay Busbee’s dream of a form-letter response to angry commenters

Sportswriter Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports has written a tongue-in-cheek form letter in response to commenters on his pieces, and anyone who’s ever had an online audience can relate.

The letter, published on his site and headlined “A Letter For the Angry Fan Who Just Wants a Little Attention,” has something for people who liked what he wrote, and something for, as Busbee writes, “as is the more likely scenario, you didn’t like what I wrote.” Since there are more of the latter, he spends more time on those replies, and that’s where the fun is:

4. Journalism can be “biased” in the sense that I get paid to offer my opinion on certain stories. If you disagree with my opinion, that’s your right, of course. But offering my opinion doesn’t make me a bad journalist, just like offering yours doesn’t make you a bad reader …

7. There’s (not theirs) a decent chance your (not you’re) writing is a writhing, poorly spelled, ungrammatical mess. If that’s the case, I’d love to take your points seriously, but I’m laughing too hard at you.

When I worked in a newspaper circulation department, taking calls from people whose morning paper was missing or in a puddle—sometimes people astonishingly angry over a 25-cent item!—my co-workers and I would fantasize about what we would say to callers on our last day at the job. Things like, “Sir, do you realize you’re screaming your lungs out over a 25-cent newspaper?” To be fair, that 25 cents would be worth about 60 cents today.

I’ve similarly fantasized about how I would answer apoplectic and abusive commenters and emailers if I were less professional, or maybe just less inhibited. I’ve never—OK, rarely—given in to these impulses. If you haven’t either, you might find Busbee’s form letter cathartic. You might even want to write one of your own. And never send it.